Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

establishments, they prayed the general government to grant them for three years the privilege of introducing, free of duty, certain articles indispensable to their comfort and advancement-among which were enumerated, provisions, iron and steel, machinery, farming utensils, tools of the various mechanic arts, hard-ware and hollow-ware, nails, waggons and carts, cotton-bagging and bale-rope, coarse cotton goods and clothing, shoes and hats, household and kitchen furniture, ammunition, medicines, books, and stationery. Many of these articles were either directly or indirectly prohibited. It was stated, in conclusion, that the trade of Texas was small, and the resources of the settlers limited, but, if fostered by a liberal policy on the part of the general government, the trade would in a few years yield a revenue of no little importance.

For the purpose of bringing the petitions under the serious consideration of the Federal Government, the Convention nominated three commissioners—Stephen Austin, Erasmo Seguin, (a respectable Mexican planter,) and James B. Miller. Ultimately, however, the danger and toil of the mission devolved solely upon Colonel Austin, who, although he, in common with the majority of the colonists, deprecated every approach to rash and precipitate measures, and was doubtful of the expediency of appealing, at that particular time, to the Supreme Government for admission into the Union, acceded to the legal and constitutional expression of the popular will. On the rise of the Convention, he left Texas in April for the city of Mexico, where he soon afterwards arrived, and found the spirit of faction

in as virulent activity as it had been ten years before, when he was a suitor for the confirmation of his contract of colonization.

On the 1st of June, little more than a fortnight after Santa Anna had formally entered upon

the exercise of the Presidential duties, General Duran promulgated a plan, at San Augustin de las Cuevas, in favour of the church and the army, and calling the illustrious Santa Anna to the Supreme Dictatorship of the Mexican nation. Although there were the strongest grounds for believing that the versatile and ambitious President had secretly instigated this movement, he raised a large force, and appointing Arista, one of Bastamente's most devoted partisans, his second in command, left the capital with the professed intention of quelling the revolt, Lorenzo de Zavala, governor of Mexico, and a political associate and supporter of Santa Anna in federal principles, had in vain remonstrated against the appointment of Arista to such an important trust. The government troops had not proceeded far when Arista, changing his views, declared in favour of the Plan of Duran, and secured the President's person, simultaneously proclaiming him Dictator. News of the movement reached the military in the capital, who joined in the cry of “ Santa Anna for Dictator !” but the Vice-President, Gomez Farias, distrusting Santa Anna, and convinced that the arrest was a voluntary trial of his popularity, to test the probability of succeeding in his ulterior aim of unconstitutional ascendancy, rallied the Federalists against the soldiery, and, aided by Zavala, frustrated the ingenious scheme of the President and his allies. Affecting to make his escape, Santa Anna returned to the city, satisfied that the public mind was not yet prepared for the adoption of a Central Government. To reinstate himself in the confidence of the friends of the constitution, he determined to sacrifice the very persons he had suborned to rebellion. He raised accordingly another force, and joined by a division under General Mexia, pursued the insurgents, whom he compelled to surrender at Guanaxuato. Arista was pardoned and Duran banished, and the victorious President returned to the capital, where he was hailed by the populace as the champion of the Federal Constitution and the father of his country ! Disappointed in this attempt, Santa Anna retired for a season to his estate, where he occupied himself in endeavours to effect by intrigue what he had failed to accomplish by a dexterous stroke of political strategy.

In the absence of the executive head, his authority devolved upon the Vice-President, Gomez Farias, who, entertaining a confirmed dislike of the priesthood and the military, commenced a system of retrenchment and reform by reducing the army.

His views were followed out by the Congress, which passed several salutary laws for restraining the power of the clergy. In order to relieve the financial embarrassments of a country burdened with a heavy public debt, and unprovided with means for maintaining even its peace establishments, the Federal Legislature was about to appropriate a portion of the ecclesiastical revenues to the public use, when signs of revolutionary outbreaks appeared in various quarters. Countenanced, probably, by Santa Anna, who had openly displayed his hostility to Farias and his policy, General Bravo commenced an insurrection in the south, and an attempt was made to seize the Vice-President in his house at Mexico. It was amidst this turmoil of antagonist parties that Austin sought to obtain the acquiescence of the General Government in the wishes of the Texan colonists, as expressed by their petitions.

In a despatch to the municipality of Bexar, dated the 14th of August, he intimated his expectation of a favourable result to his mission; still no definitive arrangement had been made. To use his own words, “ Months had passed, and nothing was done with the petition, except to refer it to a Committee of Congress, where it slept, and was likely to sleep. I finally urged the just and constitutional claims of Texas to become a State, in the most pressing manner, as I believed it to be my duty to do; representing, also, the necessity and good policy of this measure, owing to the almost total want of local government of any kind—the absolute want of a judiciary—the evident impossibility of being governed

any longer by Coahuila (for three-fourths of the Legislature were from thence), and the consequent anarchy and discontent that existed in Texas. It was my misfortune to offend the high authorities of the nation : my frank and honest exposition of the truth was construed into threats. At this time (September and October, 1833) a revolution was raging in many parts of the nation, and especially in the vicinity of the city of Mexico. I despaired of obtaining anything; and wrote to Texas, recom

mending the people there to organise as a State, de facto, without waiting any longer. This letter may have been imprudent, as respects the injury it might do me personally; but how far it was criminal, or treasonable, considering the revolutionary condition of the whole nation, and the peculiar claims and necessities of Texas, impartial men must decide.”

Austin had irritated the national pride of the Vice-President by plainly stating, what he knew must ultimately be the effect of rejecting the appeal of the colonists. The letter to which he alludes was addressed to the municipality of Bexar, from the city of Mexico, on the 2nd of October. He informed the municipal authorities that, after the 14th of August, the Congress had been deterred from meeting regularly by the cholera. The sudden civil war, of which it was difficult to foresee the result, had, moreover, paralysed public affairs; so that, up to the hour of writing, nothing had been, nor was likely to be done. “ In such a state of things,” he adds, “ I strongly recommend that all the municipalities of Texas should come, without delay, to an understanding—organising a local government for Texas as a State of the Mexican Confederation, grounded on the law of the 7th of May, 1824. Things should be prepared with union and harmony, thus being ready for the time when the Congress will refuse their approval.

This step,” he remarks in conclusion, “ is absolutely necessary as a preparatory measure; as we can no longer doubt that, if the inhabitants of Texas do not take matters into their own hands, that beautiful country is ruined for ever. I now recommend

« ZurückWeiter »